The Great Depression pushed cotton prices to drastically low levels. The Memphis economy was suffering.
In early 1931, Arthur Halle and a group of businessmen founded a festival to promote cotton and Memphis. The first Cotton Carnival was held in March, but soon moved to May, a warmer month. Today’s Carnival is usually held the first week of June.
Because of segregation, blacks could not participate. So Dr. R.Q. Venson founded what became the Cotton Makers Jubilee in 1935 for African-Americans. The events ran parallel to one another for nearly half a century.
May 27th, the last Monday in May, is Memorial Day. Americans pause to remember and honor those who died defending our country. The observance began at Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1865, as a tribute to Union Soldiers.
For years, Southern states had separate Memorial Days. For example, Tennessee's was June 3.
Memorial Day now honors the dead of all wars in which the United States has fought. Congress declared it a Federal Holiday in 1971. Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State because so many of its citizens have enlisted when needed.
The famed Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto, the first European to see the Mississippi River, died on May 21, 1542.
De Soto and his men had marched hundreds of miles through much of the Southeast. By the time of his death, De Soto had lost at least 1/3 of his men to disease, malnutrition, and constant warfare with the Native Americans.
After his death, the remaining Spaniards traveled down the Mississippi, made their way to Mexico, and then back home.
Abe Fortas may be the only Supreme Court Justice whose first career was in a dance band. The son of Jewish immigrants from England, Fortas grew up on Pontotoc Street in downtown Memphis. His father encouraged him to play the violin, and, by thirteen, he was playing in a dance band called “the Blue Medley Boys.”
The young sensation, nicknamed “Fiddlin' Abe,” earned enough to supplement his college scholarship at Southwestern University, today's Rhodes College. His passion for music and the arts remained with him throughout his life.